Family films to see at the cinema this week
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family!
Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New releases out now
The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature (U)
The original 2014 animation about a bunch of critters living in a park and their search for food was amiable enough, but surely didn’t warrant a second trip. Perhaps most notable for the fact that the fart gag in the trailer isn’t actually in the film itself, this is a largely laugh free affair in which everyone dashes maniacally about when, the Nut Store having exploded, and the lifetime of nuts along with it, the animals are forced to return to the park, only to see it dug up by the corrupt city mayor and a ramshackle amusement park erected. The film basically entails the fight by the animals, led by Surly the squirrel (Will Arnett) and his mute rat buddy, to regain their home while red squirrel Andie (Katherine Heigel) keeps admonishing him about how they should get back to their natural instincts and forage for food rather than taking the easy option.
There’s little inspiration in evidence, the best bits being a subplot in which slobbering pooch Precious (Maya Rudolph) is abducted by the mayor’s brattish daughter and forms a bond with her put-upon bulldog Frankie (Bobby Canavale) and the spirited contribution of Jackie Chan as Mr. Feng, a martial arts city mouse who leads an army of similarly garbed rodents and who, themselves having previously lost their own park, come to the aid of Surly and co. Among the laboured gags and repetitive plot there may be just enough to satisfy undemanding six-year-olds, but otherwise these nuts are decidedly stale. 91 mins.
LGWTC guidance: Nothing to go nuts about
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (U)
Having bonded over hearing the word Uranus, George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) are firm friends with a mission to enliven school boredom with wild pranks. However, finally caught in the act by joyless principal Mr Krupp (Ed Helms), they face being put in separate classes. To prevent this, George uses his toy hypno-ring to make Mr. Krupps think he’s really Captain Underpants, the decidedly dumb superhero character of the comics they create. Naturally chaos follows as he keeps switching between nice and nasty, but with the arrival of their new mad scientist teacher, who, with the help of humourless class nerd Melvin, is determined to ride the world of laughter after being ridiculed because of his name, maybe, together, they can save the day and transform Krupps into a pleasant person as well. The fact that Kroll’s character is named Professor Poopypants should tell grown ups not familiar with Dav Pilkey’s best-selling books what to expect from this animated big screen adaptation. The better news is that, although it clearly aimed at the immature humour of seven-year-olds, with its giant robot toilets and inflatable gorillas, it’s also an enjoyably good-natured gigglefest about the power of friendship and laughter. 89 mins.
LGWTC guidance: Junior school toilet humour and subversive adult jokes mix in this shamelessly silly but feelgood fun feature.
Cars 3 (3D) (U)
After the under-revved Cars 2, Pixar shifts back up a gear as race car champ Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is dethroned by Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) one of the new generation of faster, more hi-tech models. Following a nasty crash, it seems his track days are over, but, with the help of Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonz), a young female trainer at the revamped Rust-eze Racing Centre, Smokey Yunick (Chris Cooper), the repair truck of his former mentor, Doc Hudson, and the support of loyal buddies like Mater, Luigi, Guido and Sally, the humiliated McQueen trains hard to learn the tricks he needs to beat Storm in the Florida 500, including a not exactly successful turn in a demolition derby. Carrying a believe in yourself message, this is very much a passing the torch story (Cruz never had the confidence to be a racer herself) and, while it lacks the emotional edge of the first film, it is sufficiently warm, funny and inspiring enough to make it to the finish line. 109 mins inc short film Lou. Also in 2D.
LGWTC guidance: After the under-performing Cars 2, this needs to rev up its game if intends to remain in the animation race.
Valerian and The City Of A Thousand Planets 3D (12A)
Being billed as the year’s biggest and best 3D spectacular should tell you Luc Besson’s space opera adaptation of the French sci fi comics that influenced Blade Runner, Star Wars and Avatar is bigger on style than substance. Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are government agents on an inter-dimensional charged with recovering some mysterious stolen property. It transpires that it’s an armadillo-like creature, the last of its kind, which could save an alien race and possibly impact on the order of the universe. But there are forces at work seeking to cover up a past genocide and, in addition, the titular city, a humungous space station populated by hundreds of different races, human and alien. Visually awesome in its futuristic visions, and CGI designs among them a ‘virtual’ market, bald aliens with iridescent blue skin, and Rihanna as a shapeshifting burlesque dancer, it’s also dramatically incoherent, its wildly free-flowing overloaded plot racing from one set-up to the next with yes, yet another countdown to destruction. On top of which, the boyish DeHaan doesn’t greatly convince as either a major or a cocky Han Solo character, but Delevingne has cool enough to spare as the snarky, sexy Laureline. 137 mins. Also in 2D.
LGWTC guidance: Excessive, bloated and bonkers, even so it’s a dazzling ride.
Despicable Me 3 3D (U)
Following their failure to capture washed-up Hollywood 80s child star-turned-criminal, Balthazar Bratt, secret agents Gru (Steve Carrell) and wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are fired from the Anti-Villain League and, when he refuses to return to his super-villain ways, all but two of the Minions walk out on him too. His depression is lifted when he learns he has a twin brother, Dru (also Carrell), the pair apparently being separated when their parents divorced. Dru not only has blonde hair but is a super rich pig farm owner, but what he wants most is to follow in his brother’s – and as it turns out – father’s footsteps and become a villain.
Seeing this as a chance to recover the world’s biggest diamond from Bratt and finally capture him, Gru pretends to go along with the idea, he just doesn’t tell Lucy.
The film’s split into mutiple storylines of Gru and Dru’s assault on Bratt’s HQ, the quest by Gru’s young foster daughter Agnes to find a unicorn, and the misadventures of the Minions (who wind up in and escaping from prison), as well as Lucy trying to get a handle on this mom thing. It all finally comes together There’s plenty of the familiar fun and sentiment from Bratt’s 80s music dance battles to the Minions’ hilarious version of a Gilbert & Sullivan song, but perhaps it may be sadly time to call it a day. 90 mins Also in 2D
LGTWC guidance: It’s fun and the Minions again steal the film, but you get the feeling the series is running out of steam.
Spider-Man: Homecoming 3D (12A)
Having made his cameo debut in Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland, the third to play Spider-Man on the big screen, returns for his first feature and proves a worthy successor to the franchise. This time round, Peter Parker (Holland) is a gawky, over-enthusiastic 15-year-old high schooler, with all the hormones and bully problems that brings, and has been told by mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) to keep his webslinging on a local level. That proves difficult when he comes across a criminal gang selling high tech weapons built using salvaged alien parts (the film’s set some months after Civil War but opens just after events in the first Avengers). They’re led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a former contractor who’s built himself a set of killer mechanical wings. When an incident proves too much and Iron Man has to intervene to prevent a mass tragedy, Stark takes back the hi-tech spider-suit and tells Peter to focus on school; however, when things take a dark turn just as he’s going to the Homecoming dance with the girl he has a crush on, it’s time to prove it’s not the suit that makes the hero.
Although considerably tweaked, fans will recognise many of the comic’s characters (Flash Thompson, MJ, a much younger Aunt May – played by Marisa Tomei) and there’s some new twists, like Peter’s classmate learning his identity, but this plays true by the character, including any number of screw-ups and property damage as he learns to manage his powers and his suit, and while, ultimately, this is about the rebooted series finding its feet, it ably maintains the bar set by the other Marvel movies. 133 mins. Also in 2D and IMAX 3D.
LGWTC guidance: A super-hero in training film that plays to the ‘I wish I could do that’ element in young adults, but will also keep older Marvel fanatics happy.
The Emoji Movie: Express Yourself 3D (U)
Basically, this is Inside Out in a Smartphone with young Gene (T.J. Miller), the son of Mel (Steven Wright) and Mary (Jennifer Coolidge) Meh, about to make his debut in the Cube as the new indifferent emoji. However, unable to control the fact that he’s actually upbeat and not limited to one expression, everything in Textopolis goes into meltdown, with Cube controller Smiler (Maya Rudolph) declaring him a malfunction and ordering his deletion. To which end, he and out of fashion emoji Hi-5 (James Cordon) recruit hacker Jailbreak (Anna Faris) to help him navigate the apps, avoid the Internet Trolls and escape into the Cloud and get reprogrammed. Meanwhile, the phone’s owner, high schooler Alex, whose texts to his crush, Addie, keep going awry, decides to have it wiped and reset, prompting an usual race against the clock. Retreading the message about being who you are, individuality and not being defined by one trait, as well as the usual stuff about friendship, it’s a colourful affair populated with dozens of familiar emojis, among them Poop (Patrick Stewart) and Akiko Glitter (Christina Aguilera), allowing for any number of puns. Although the comments about how emojis and texting limit real communication seem at odds with the film’s concept per-se. It’s not deep, but it’s undeniably fun. Includes Hotel Transylvania short, Puppy. 86 mins. Also in 2D.
LGWTC guidance: *Smiley emoji*